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1. A hammer, a mallet, was used much for the same purposes in ancient as in modern times. In Greek the general term is σφῦρα; the large smith's hammer, such as that used by Hephaestus, is specially called ῥαιστήρ (also κέστρα); the word κροταφὶς is used for a hammer with one end sharpened, like a coal-pick. In Latin, while malleus is the general term, marcus is specially used for the heavy smith's hammer, and marcellus, marculus for smaller varieties (Isid. Orig. 19.7). When several

The forge of Vulcan. (From a bas-relief.)

men were striking with their hammers on the same anvil, it was a matter of necessity that they should strike in time, and Virgil accordingly says of the Cyclopes, “Inter se brachia tollunt in numerum” (Georg. 4.174; Aen. 8.452). The scene which he describes is represented in the above woodcut, taken from an ancient bas-relief, in which Vulcan, Brontes, and Steropes are seen forging the metal, while the third Cyclops, Pyracmon, blows the bellows (Aen. 8.425). Beside the anvil-stand [INCUS] is seen the vessel of water in which the hot iron or bronze was immersed (ib. 5.450, 451). [LACUS]

But, besides the employment of the hammer upon the anvil for making all ordinary utensils, the smith (χαλκεύς) wrought with this instrument figures called ἔργα σφυρήλατα (or ὁλοσφύρητα, Brunck, Anal. 2.222), which were either small and fine, some of their parts being as thin as paper and being in very high relief, as in the bronzes of Siris [LORICA], or of colossal proportions, being composed of separate plates, riveted together: of this the most remarkable example was the statue of the sun of wrought bronze (σφυρήλατος κολοσσός, Theocrit. 22.47; ῥαιστηροκοπία, Philo de 7 Spectac. 4, p. 14, ed. Orell.), seventy cubits high, which was erected in Rhodes. Another remarkable production of the same kind was the golden statue of Jupiter (Strabo viii. p.378; Plat. Phaedr. p. 236 B), which was erected at Olympia by the sons of Cypselus.

By other artificers the hammer was used in conjunction with the chisel [DOLABRA], as by the carpenter (pulsans malleus, Coripp. de Laud. Justini, 4.47; woodcut, Vol. I. p. 126) and the sculptor.

Several drawings of ancient hammers may be seen in Blümner, Technologie, 2.196, every one of which might be matched by a pattern now in use.

2. To be distinguished from the above is malleolus, a sort of rocket, having lighted tow and pitch attached to one end, which was thrown in sieges and in naval warfare. Its name is probably derived from malleolus, the shoot of a plant, or else because the head with the tow attached was compared to a hammer. (See Cic. Cat. 1.1. 3, 32; Liv. 42.64; Amm. Marcell. 23.4, 14; Veget. 4.18.)

[W.S] [G.E.M]

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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Cicero, Against Catiline, 1.1.3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 64
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